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May personal representatives access health information based on a non-health care power of attorney?


No. Except with respect to decedents, a covered entity must treat a personal representative as the individual only when that person has authority under other law to act on the individual’s behalf on matters related to health care. A power of attorney that does not include decisions related to health care in its scope would not authorize the holder to exercise the individual’s rights under the HIPAA Privacy Rule. Further, a covered entity does not have to treat a personal representative as the individual if, in the exercise of professional judgment, it believes doing so would not be in the best interest of the individual because of a reasonable belief that the individual has been or may be subject to domestic violence, abuse or neglect by the personal representative, or that doing so would otherwise endanger the individual.

With respect to personal representatives of deceased individuals, the Privacy Rule requires a covered entity to treat the personal representative as the individual as long as the person has the authority under law to act for the decedent or the estate. The power of attorney would have to be valid after the individual’s death to qualify the holder as the personal representative of the decedent.

Date Created: 12/19/2002
Last Updated: 03/14/2006